Gabrielle Union's Stylist on How Press Tours Evolved Into All-Out Fashion Circuses
Hint: Fashion Week had something to do with it.
In recent years, the celebrity press tour has become as influential fashion-wise as a runway show or red-carpet appearance — sometimes more so, depending on the star in question.
In the span of a few short days, an actor or actress might wear as many as 25 looks (cough, Blake Lively, cough) for appearances on talk shows and radio programs, at meet-and-greets and, of course, on the street going to and from those various obligations.
In the age of social media, each look is eaten up by the star's millions of photo-hungry fans, who may or may not recognize the designer labels on the off-the-runway outfits, but are delighted nonetheless to see their favorite star looking chic. Thinks of it as street style for the celebrity literate.
However, press tours didn't always used to be such over-the-top fashion affairs. There was a time when celebrities, like us civilians, wore just one outfit per day. The trend peaked two years ago when Lively said she tried on 256 outfits for her Age of Adaline press tour. (With an average of seven outfits per day, she needed options.) But how did it start?
Gabrielle Union's stylist Thomas Christos Kikis traces it back to Fashion Week. As fashion shows in general have become more consumer-facing over the past decade, celebrities are expected to wear an ensemble made by whichever designer's show they're attending, with the expectation that they'll be photographed sitting front row. And with up to eight shows per day, that's a lot of outfit changes.
"A few years ago, [Union] did a Fashion Week with Dwyane [Wade, Union's husband], and we did eight outfits in one day because they went to eight different shows," says Kikis. "When you're doing New York Fashion Week, you have to change looks, so it kind of conditions you. And you see what the response is when you do that, so you think, 'Oh let's just create a press tour like Fashion Week.'"
He added, "It's becoming more of an opportunity to showcase fashion and not just your movie or book or whatever you're doing press about."
Changing into multiple outfits per day certainly pays off on social media, too, even if it is an unintended bonus. A new outfit warrants a new post, and a new post means another opportunity to plug whatever it is the celebrity is promoting to begin with.
Union, who is currently publicizing her new book of personal essays, We're Going to Need More Wine, has hit the press-tour circuit at full speed, wearing looks by Marc Jacobs, Public School, Proenza Schouler, Gabriela Hearst and many (many) more while in New York.
The actress is now off to Philadelphia, and the cool looks continue. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Kikis on Friday to talk Union's edgier aesthetic for this press tour and how he manages to throw everything together in just a few weeks.
How many looks did you prepare for this press tour?
For the We're Going to Need More Wine press tour, we prepared about 35 looks. It's a pretty big tour, it goes until early November and there's specific events in different cities. New York has a pretty unique way of doing press and showcasing style, so the bulk of it was in New York.
How far in advance do you begin prepping her looks?
Just a few weeks out. We did a fitting about two weeks before, and then I did another one closer to it because I was hoping to get some spring pieces that had just come out. They needed some time to go through sales, and then we did a separate fitting just for those spring pieces — like the Gabriela Hearst denim dress she just did was right before.
How do you go about choosing so many looks? Where do you start?
For this tour, being that we were showcasing her as a writer and an author, in my thinking it lent itself to being a little bit more eclectic and not as "she's an actress" or doing something with Dywane and doing something more feminine. This was like, "I'm a writer, I'm an anchor, I'm an activist," and I wanted to showcase that. To me, that means ... maybe I'm being a little too on the nose — but more New York-y.
For example, what do we wear when we walk around New York? We don't really wear a satin, six-inch stiletto. So we did platforms, brogues — that was kind of the vibe.
How many looks did you have to start with that you then narrowed down?
I think we had maybe 60 options? There weren't that many edits because I kind of know what she wants. She's been into pants lately, like when she was designing her New York and Company line, she did a lot of pants. It's not necessarily like men's tailoring, but the convenience of pants.
How do you organize everything? Do you have a spreadsheet for what she's going to where and when?
I always have backups, but for New York I knew everything that she was going to wear ... for the rest of the tour, everything is packed up and labeled like, "Atlanta meet-and-greet." She's very type-A in her organization, so everything is packed up and ready to go.
Do you think that social media, and sharing a visual, has become a component of the press tour itself?
I think social media is a really big part of the way that she communicates and reaches people. With Twitter, she showcases what's going on in her life, and sometimes it's a little political because she is such an activist and she does have such a story. On Instagram, she likes to showcase pictures of her friends and family and what she's wearing and so it's always fun. She gets the process. She knows what it means. With her 9 million followers, she knows that if she tags a designer — whether it's Stella or someone a little smaller — it's going to have an impact.
Any standouts or interesting style tidbits from the press tour so far?
The shoes story was something that she was pretty into, as far as not doing high heels. For example, the Proenza shoe that we did was a croc platform, and then for Gabriela Hearst, we did a lot of [Hearst's] accessories because she's mastered those. It was really easy to do full looks when she wore Gabriela.
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